Coolidge had opportunities to meet and work with Democratic leaders during his lengthy career. Despite recent press coverage of President Obama and Governor Christie, working with officials of the other party is not new. The relationship between Calvin Coolidge and Alfred E. (Al) Smith, the Democratic Governor of New York, was based more on the common experiences they had in political life, and less or not at all on their political beliefs.

The summer White House was in New York State’s Adirondack region in 1926. Before the president left Washington, he received a welcoming letter and a fishing license from Governor Smith who expressed interest in greeting the president in person. By an exchange of letters between the principals and later their staffs, the two men and their wives had lunch at White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths, NY, the Coolidges’ headquarters, on Friday, July 16th.

The President had put the fishing license to good use, and since the Smiths were Catholic, the main course was fish caught by Coolidge.  The President gave Smith a three pound live pike which the governor held up for waiting photographers.

Smith had presidential ambitions and had run for his party’s nomination in both 1920 and 1924. His chance was to come in 1928 when as the Democratic nominee, he lost to Herbert Hoover.  Smith’s Catholic faith was a deciding factor. However, in the summer of 1926, many people might have seen this lunch as a meeting of the two men who would head their party’s ticket in 1928.

Calvin Coolidge and Al Smith had huge policy differences. For example, Smith was a notorious ‘wet’ who seemed to not follow the spirit or the letter of the prohibition laws. Coolidge followed the law by not serving alcohol in the White House.

As the Coolidge/Smith lunch was being arranged in writing, Coolidge comments about one of the common bonds:

           “We are anticipating the change, as you know from your own experience it is not possible to get a vacation.”

Sometimes an office holder of one party simply does his job when an official of another party visits his state. Coolidge, while Governor of Massachusetts, welcomed President Woodrow Wilson home, when his ship docked in Boston after the WWI peace conference in Paris. Wilson was promoting the League of Nations which was not supported by many Republicans. Perhaps Smith too was just doing his job in the Adirondacks one day in the summer of 1926.

The Coolidge Museum has just opened a small exhibition titled, Across Party Lines: Coolidge and Al Smith.